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President calls for innovative ways to liquidate court arrears

J. Venkatesan
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“Government agencies, one of the biggest litigants, must exercise restraint”

President Pratibha Patil along with Chief Justice of India Justice S.H. Kapadia at the all-India seminar on judicial reforms in New Delhi on Saturday. — Photo: S. Subramanium
President Pratibha Patil along with Chief Justice of India Justice S.H. Kapadia at the all-India seminar on judicial reforms in New Delhi on Saturday. — Photo: S. Subramanium

President Pratibha Patil on Saturday called upon the State governments, the Bar and the Bench to find innovative methods to liquidate backlogs in courts in a time-bound manner.

Inaugurating a two-day all-India seminar on judicial reforms, organised here by the Confederation of Indian Bar (CIB), the President pointed out that government agencies being one of the biggest litigants must exercise restraint from routinely instituting litigation and clogging the system.

She said: “The justice delivery system has been afflicted with an explosion of litigation. Current figures reveal that the arrears in High Courts exceed 40 lakh cases, while in the subordinate courts, it surpasses 270 lakh. Now as the Chief Justice of India [S.H. Kapadia] has talked about the difference between arrears and pendency in cases, I think we will have to review these figures. Delays render the common man's knock on the temple of justice a frustrating experience. Litigants are not able to lead normal lives, being unsure of the verdict in their case. In criminal cases, delays compel undertrials to suffer imprisonment for an agonisingly longer time than what the law prescribes.”

“It is paradoxical that alongside docket explosion, we have the phenomena of docket exclusion. Litigation being expensive, approaching courts without legal aid is a daunting task for the poor and the vulnerable.”

Ms. Patil said: “Congestion of court cases has been compounded by shortage of judicial manpower and a low judge-to-population ratio. We must explore betterment of this ratio, by augmenting the strength of the judiciary without compromising on quality. There is a need to act fast on other parameters. Advance action needs to be taken to fill up existing and prospective vacancies. Delay in the process of judicial appointments should be avoided in the face of the huge swell in the volume of litigation. It is said that while a litigant has one life, litigation transcends generations.”

“Towards curtailing wastage of precious judicial time, we must re-engineer and simplify court procedures, which otherwise tend to make litigation unduly slow and protracted. Frequent demands and liberal grant of adjournments, filing of multiple suits and similar tactics make judicial productivity sluggish. Timely pronouncement of judgments and quick execution of decrees would be beneficial.”

Alternative mechanism

She said Alternative Dispute Resolution, including arbitration, conciliation, negotiation and mediation could decrease the cost and time of litigation, improve access to justice and preserve social relationships.

She said: “Judicial accountability and judicial independence should coexist harmoniously. There can be informed discussion on ways and means of ensuring judicial accountability.”

Ms. Patil said: “The common man holds the judiciary in exalted trust and reposes deep faith and confidence in it. Our judiciary has won international encomium for its unique jurisprudential contributions. It is therefore the sacred responsibility of every citizen, every judge and every lawyer to the country, that the lustre of judicial portals is not diminished, its pious reputation not tarnished and that the judiciary as the bulwark of freedom, grows from strength to strength.”

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